More than 200 stray cats have found a home in a Hong Kong artist's gift shop in Macau, attracting tourists in droves, especially from Japan. Almond Chan Pui-yee has unwittingly become the city's 'queen of cats' after fostering so many of the abandoned creatures at her Meow Space shop over the past year. 'People bring abandoned kitties to us that they find on the streets as we become better known,' Ms Chan, 40, said. 'Our place is getting more like a charity centre than a shop.' Meow Space sells cat-themed souvenirs such as handbags, wallets and T-shirts. Each handbag is inspired by a unique stray cat that has lived there. Since she opened the shop in November 2007, Ms Chan and her colleagues have taken care of more than 200 cats and found homes for most of them. Twenty cats are now living in the 1,000 sq ft shop, waiting to be adopted. It is no mean feat attending to the cats. Ms Chan and co-designer Cora Si Wun-cheng, who are the only two permanent staff at Meow Space, have to juggle caretaking and design work. Much of their time is spent checking the cats' health, taking them to vets, treating them with medicine and contacting potential adopters. Ms Chan said she missed her family in Hong Kong but could go home only once a month because of the heavy workload. Two of Macau's three popular centres for abandoned animals are run by Hongkongers. Besides Meow Space, the Abandoned Animals Protection Association of Macau is also led by a Hong Kong resident. Meow Space fostered the most cats last year, while the association helps all kinds of abandoned animals, from cats to dogs to tortoises. 'The stereotype is that Hongkongers come to Macau only to make money or get ahead in their careers,' Ms Chan said, 'But there are 'silly' people like us who work their guts out here for small animals.' Meow Space has featured in well-known Japanese travel magazines, perhaps because many Japanese are fond of cats. Although the shop is not close to popular sightseeing areas, a lot of Japanese tourists have visited. Ms Chan said Macau's few centres for abandoned animals were undermanned and scrambling to meet demand. In 2005, when she came to Macau to start a design business, Ms Chan adopted a kitten but found it hard to divide her time between work and caretaking. Then she had an idea. 'Why don't I open a shop where I can keep cats and do designs based on cats at the same time?' Last year, Meow Space made a slim profit after initially struggling to make ends meet. 'The profit means I am earning less than a domestic helper,' Ms Chan said. At the beginning, Meow Space kept losing money because rents were high in Macau at the end of 2007, the shop was little known and it was expensive to hire workers. 'I had a heavy heart and dared not tell my family that some 20,000 patacas went out each month with little coming in,' Ms Chan said. 'But I decided to carry on because many friends agreed with what I was doing and lent me support.' Things turned around in the second half of last year, with costs falling and the shop gaining fame. Besides cat-themed gifts, Ms Chan and Ms Si also design books and print advertisements to help cover the expenses of Meow Space. Meow Space could be mistaken for an education centre, as schoolchildren often visit to play with the cats. 'Their parents like it when they spend time here,' Ms Chan said. 'I suspect it has an educational effect - it teaches kids to protect animals.' In Macau's cultural circles, Meow Space is often seen as an arts group - and one of a very few that operate independent of government funding. It is now hoping to extend its care to other abandoned animals. 'In future, if we become more successful, we'll also help dogs.'